Wass lifts Alabama to first win of the season in walk-off fashion

Kevin Connell

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Heading into the second game of the season, Wade Wass had zero career hits in two years at Alabama.

On Saturday, he had two in three at-bats, including a walk-off single to left field in the bottom of the ninth inning to lift No. 21 Alabama to a 4-3 victory over Saint Louis for its first win of the season.

“Awesome. Long time coming,” said Wass when describing his game-winning hit.

Wass, a redshirt junior catcher, missed all of last season due to two separate injuries. In a preseason scrimmage last season, Wass broke his right ankle, forcing him to miss the first month of the season. When he made his Alabama debut as a pinch-hitter against Tennessee on March 15, 2013, he broke his hand after getting hit by a pitch.

It was both the first and last at-bat of the season for Wass.

“I mean, I’m just trying to trust it,” Wass said on his play at the plate so far in 2014. “Just trust in my hands and my approach and everything like that is a big thing for me.”

It was the second hit of the game, season and career for Wass, who also hit an RBI double to left field to tie the game at 3-3. On both of Wass’ RBIs, the runners – junior right fielder Ben Moore and sophomore shortstop Mikey White – beat close throws at the plate from left field.

It was a redeeming moment for White, who scored the winning run, after being thrown out in the plate in the bottom of the eighth, trailing 2-1 against Saint Louis in the season opener Friday.

“I was trying to get in there as quick as I could, because that guy has a pretty good arm,” White said. “I saw the catcher move inside the line and [Kyle Overstreet] was behind him, yelling ‘Outside, outside, outside,’ so I just did the best slide I could to get around him to score the run.”

The late-game heroics did not come without adversity, though.

Junior left-hander Justin Kamplain allowed three hits and three earned runs – including a two-run home run to reigning A-10 Player of the Year Mike Vigliarolo – in the first inning alone.

In his four innings of work after the rocky start, Kamplain allowed no hits and struck out five, while walking only two.

“I just know Kamplain is going to come out no matter how he does and put his heart into it,” said freshman right-hander Nick Eicholtz, who threw three scoreless innings on just two hits in his collegiate debut Saturday. “Once after the first inning where he didn’t do that great, putting up four [scoreless innings] is the type of person that he is. He’s just a battler.”

The Crimson Tide got on the board with its first run of the game on sophomore Daniel Cucjen’s solo home run off the foul pole in left field in the third inning. It was the first career home run for Cucjen, and it came on the first pitch he saw in the 2014 season.

Alabama added a second run in the inning on sac fly from Moore to right field plated White from third to cut the deficit to 3-2. White went 3-for-5 with a triple and scored two runs in the game.

The win was particularly pleasing for Alabama players, who saluted the packed crowd in the new right field seating after the win.

“It was a big turnout,” Wass said. “We really put an emphasis on right field stands with fans and students and everything and trying to get them involved with the baseball team, and then coming out and watching a game like that for the first time in one of the first games of the season is real special for us.”

Sophomore right-hander Ray Castillo (2-3, 3.38 ERA last season) will close out the series Sunday for Alabama against sophomore left-hander Josh Moore (1-2, 4.85 ERA). First pitch is scheduled for 1:05 p.m.